My decision to read Bauchelain and Korbal Broach novellas as an interlude before I plunge into Memories of Ice revealed to be a good one as the first novella, Blood Follows, is the tale of the very first encounter between Bauchelain and his manservant, Emancipor Reese (and these being characters that will appear in Memories).
On the forums I read the three novellas will be eventually released as accessible priced editions, in the meantime I’m enjoying my purchase. They are not an attempt to put a Malazan novel in a short form, these novellas are much different in style and Erikson seems even more at ease in this format than the longer books. I’m loving them. The writing is excellent, more measured and a pleasure to read. In a way it reminds me Joe Abercrombie, with more typified characters and humorous scenes, all coated in the usual Malazan myth.
Here are a few chunks, along with the very first encounter between our ‘heroes’.
First few lines:
The bells pealed across the Lamentable City of Moll, clamouring along the crooked, narrow alleys, buffeting the dawn-risers hurriedly laying out their wares in the market rounds. The bells pealed, tumbling over the grimy cobblestones, down to the wharfs and out over the bay’s choppy, gray waves. Shrill iron, the bells pealed with the voice of hysteria.
Bauchelain meets Emancipor Reese:
‘Have you any references, Mister Reese?’
‘Oh yes, of course!’ Emancipor found he was nodding without pause. He tried to stop, but couldn’t. ‘My wife, Subly. Thirthy-one years–‘
‘I meant, your previous employer.’
‘Before him, then.’
The man raised one thin eyebrow. ‘And before him?’
‘And before that I was a cockswain on the able trader, Searime, for twenty years doing the Stygg run down Bloodwalk Strait.’
‘Ahh, and this ship and her captain?’
‘Sixty fathoms down, off Ridry Shelf.’
The second eyebrows rose to join the other one. ‘Quite a pedigree, Mister Reese.’
Emancipor blinked. How did he do that, with the eyebrows? ‘Yes, sir. Fine men. All of them.’
‘Do you… mourn these losses nightly?’
‘Excuse me? Oh. No sir, I do not. The day after, kind sir. Only then. Poor Baltro was a fine man–‘
‘Baltro? Merchant Baltro? Was he not the most recent victim of this madman who haunts the night?’
‘Indeed he was. I, sir, was the last man to see him alive.’
The man’s eyebrows rose higher.
‘I mean,’ Emancipor added, ‘except for the killer, of course.’
‘I’ve never had a complaint.’
‘I gathered that, Mister Reese.’
To read in the light of:
The two old men scowled at each other, then Dully nudged Kreege and said to Emancipor, ‘So, ‘Mancy, looking for work again, eh?’ Both dockmen grinned. ‘Had yourself a run of Lad’s Luck with your employers, it seems. Lady fend the poor sod fool enough to take you on–not that you ain’t reliable, of course.’
Kreege’s grin broadened, further displaying his uneven, rotting teeth. ‘Maybe Hood’s made you his Herald,’ he said. ‘Ever thought of that? It happens, you know. Not many diviners cracking the Deck these days, meaning there’s no way to tell, really. The Lord of Death picks his own, don’t he, and there ain’t a damned thing to be done for it.’
It was true enough that he’d need a new job before the day’s end, or all the respect he’d earned over the last six months would disappear faster than a candle-flame in a hurricane; and that grim label —Mancy the luckless— would return, the ghost of old in step with his shadow, and neighbours like Sturge Waever making warding signs whenever their paths crossed.
‘You’re a sorceror?’
Bauchelain’s lips quirked into a smile. ‘Many people call themselves that. Do you follow a god, Mister Reese?’
‘My wife swears by ’em–I mean, uh, she prays to a few, Master.’
Emancipor shrugged. ‘The devout die too, don’t they? Clove to an Ascendant just doubles the funeral costs, ‘sfar as I can see, and that’s all. Mind, I’ve prayed fierce on occasion–maybe it saved my skin, but maybe it was just my cast to slip Hood’s shadow so far…’
‘Have some wine,’ Bauchelain said, pouring two goblets full and handing one to Reese, who took it gratefully.
‘I’m sorry, Master–‘
‘Not at all. As the guard implied, it would have been unfortunate–and undesired–if you had come to any harm.’ He turned an inquisitive game on the old man. ‘Why so stubborn? You seem a wise man, Mister Reese–to assault and defy a sergeant of the Watch…’
‘Well, I didn’t want to fail you, Master. I, uh, like this job.’
‘You feared losing it? Do not be concerned on that account, Mister Reese. We find you ideal.’
Emancipor looked around. We?
‘And besides,’ the sorceror continued sipping his wine, ‘I have foreseen a long acquaintance between us, Mister Reese.’
There was also an enlightening part. Maybe I was too dumb to figure out in Gardens of the Moon, but I just didn’t get what was the distinction between the two twins of Chance. In this novella the distinction is made much more clear. The Lord pushes, the Lady pulls. The Lord is bad luck, the Lady is good luck.
It would be interesting to go read again those parts with the twins and consider things under this new light.